location-based email marketing: at&t, you’re doing it wrong.

a not-too-helpful email from AT&T

On a rainy Friday morning, I woke to find an email from AT&T telling me the seemingly great news that there was a newly remodeled store in Angola, Indiana, to check out.

One slight hitch here. I live nowhere near Angola, Indiana.

angola is way too far for a road trip

Come to find out, upon posting this on Twitter, the snafu was not unique to me. Quite the contrary: Many AT&T users around the country received it. So perhaps they failed to do a simple zip-code sort before sending the email. No big deal, right?

Wrong. It’s not like AT&T is already a much-beloved brand. This just makes it worse. Moreover, location-based marketing is becoming more and more important and rich in potential … look no further than the booming growth rate of Foursquare and other geosocial platforms. So AT&T — a mobile communication provider who therefore should understand location-based marketing as well as any large corporation — really looks far afield in this one.

Oh, one more thing. Here’s what the email looks like with images off (my default):

not much to see in this message

Granted many of the images in the original email were decorative and, um, not all that great to begin with, but the inducement (25% off coupon) doesn’t even appear with images off or in an alt-tag message. That’s both a usability #fail and a marketing #fail. Maybe Karlyn Morissette needs to talk to them about her Five Commandments of Email Marketing. Because this effort looks misplaced in more than one way.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “location-based email marketing: at&t, you’re doing it wrong.

  1. Eric

    I routinely get email messages for ‘deals’ from a large technology sales company that are image-full alt-free and include a “If you have trouble reading this message, click here” but no actual url in-line (gmail for blackberry strips links, but presents bare urls as links, much like common text-only email readers).

  2. Ha! Hilarious that you blogged about this, I was just considering doing the same. I have received THREE totally random AT&T new location e-mails in the last three days. None even remotely close to my home base in Boston. I may work in higher ed and have limited resources, but I can still target our e-mail marketing by geographic location. Apparently AT&T hasn’t gotten that memo. Total e-mail marketing FAIL!

  3. ICchris

    For years I’ve gotten e-mails from Tickets.com advertising events going on in southern California. What’s worse, they didn’t even know how to correct the issue when I eventually called them about it!

  4. Tim Nekritz

    ERIC: I think good email marketing is, as much as anything, common sense. But I guess that’s in short supply among technology companies who prefer dazzle over content.

    ANYA: Seriously! Maybe AT&T considers you a citizen of the world …

    CHRIS: I find it kind of ridiculous that Ticketmaster’s weekly message thinks I’m willing to drive five to six hours to a concert as it is. But SoCal … and they don’t even know how to change it? Amazing.

  5. Here’s my theory: AT&T was testing a new predictive modeling data-crunching algorithm that shows you one day will indeed visit Angola, Indiana, and want to check out the AT&T store. Maybe it isn’t even really remodeled yet. That could have been a message from the future.

    Sorry, I just got done watching Minority Report.

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